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Dinner Time Chats with Your Kids

“So, how was school?”
“Good….”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing”
Ok then. That was a big parenting fail right there.

How many times have you had these types of conversations with your kids. These are basic rookie parenting moves right there, asking a generic question like that. And I do them all of the time. But I’m learning.

You want to get the conversation started and your goal is to get your kids talking…and a lot of times that depends on their personality. My youngest daughter is the talkaholic, who at the slightest opportunity, will go on and on about every aspect of her day, from who she played with to what she had for lunch to how blue the sky was. My middle daughter is a bit more subdued but will eloquently go into a subject or two or explain how she was asked to perform gymnastics in the playground to the awe of others…and my oldest, well, she’s never around as she is off dancing ballet so I have to catch up with her during our times when we are traveling to and from ballet school.

But still, I always ask that seemingly opening ended question of “how was school” and I always get the one word reply. It’s sort of like a reporter trying to interview a reluctant witness. You need to break through the initial barriers to get at the nuggets behind the wall of indifference, fear or nervousness.

I wonder what goes through my kids’ minds though when I ask them. Sometimes I think of the movie “Up” and the dog talking and suddenly seeing a squirrel. Blah blah blah and then distraction!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBWrMQVsuak[/youtube]

So sometimes in mid sentence, I will actually says “Squirrel!” out loud to break the ice. Laughter always gets things going. I recently read a parenting advice column that discussed this same topic. The mom had a great response to the “nothing” comment from their kids by saying “so all that you did was sit in the corner and stare at the wall?” Again, there is the laughter and humor part to get the conversation flowing.

It’s important to have dinner with your kids and talk WITH them (not TO them) and teach them some lessons if you can. You have a captive audience at this point. Listen for cues on things that may be troubling or worrying them. Don’t interrupt them but keep the conversation going with “how did that make you feel” and “what did you do next” and “what did you learn from that.” These are golden opportunities to actually have 2-way conversations and not simply a parental lecture on this subject or that. And did I say LISTEN? Yeah, I did. You have got to do that.

But first, you have to find that time to sit down with them and talk…that’s why family dinnertime is so important.

My 10 year old (my middle daughter) actually has a teacher who gives the same assignment every Wednesday – “Family Time”. Simply stated, the homework is to spend time with your family. What a brilliantly simple idea. I think this should be a required part of every class.

The next time you sit down for dinner with your kids, do some planning ahead of time. Get some questions in your mind early on and ask them. Test these questions out and see how they react. The ones that you get good responses from, save for later and start re-using them. If you ask them regularly enough, your kids will become accustomed to not only hearing them, but hopefully answering them candidly.

I’m beginning to feel a bit successful with my efforts. Now, when we sit down for dinner, my kids sometimes ask me, “so, Dad, how was work?”

My reply…”Good!”

Read more of Michael’s writing at HighTechDad.com.
And don’t miss a post! Follow Michael on Twitter (@HighTechDad)!

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